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The Milliners vs. Etsy by E Moe

Two months ago, I wrote a piece about “The Category Problem” on Etsy. I felt pretty good about the effects it had. After years of radio silence, we actually did get some responses from Admin saying that they were forwarding our concerns to the actual IT people. 

For one moment in time, I thought we might be getting out of the woods. 

But no joy.

Things have actually gotten worse. 

The category problem remains. There are simply no options for hats that don’t lead to a screen-full of knitted beanies, mostly for babies or pets. Our fedoras, top hats and crazy sculptural wonders are left out entirely in the category cold.

But not only that, the SEO has changed to the detriment of every milliner (and possibly hand-maker).

SEO is a three letter acronym that holds great power and mystery. It is bandied about often without real knowledge of what it means, so let me make an attempt at explaining. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s the algorithm that sorts through all of the information in a given area to show listings that are hopefully pertinent to the search. It’s a constant challenge to keep on top of it’s various moods, quirks and vagaries as the lovely IT people that create the algorithm are constantly changing the game. This is why those three letters strike fear in the hearts of anybody who’s trying to get found. And we milliners are desperate to get found.

And we are not getting found. If a customer knows which milliner and which hat she is looking for, but does not have the direct link to the shop, it is highly unlikely that she is going to find the hat in question. Since my plea two months ago, there have been major changes to the SEO algorithm on Etsy that have skewed our cause in the opposite direction that we were hoping to head. I can’t explain it. I just know it to be true as I’ve got hundreds of milliners pulling out their hair trying to figure out why their views have fallen to near minuscule numbers.

And then there’s the manufacturers. Within the last year, Etsy made changes in their policies that allowed people to list things that are not handmade. They SAID that this was to allow those sellers that have been with them a while to grow and have employees. If that’s what it was for, it was a dire, dire failure as the place is now filled with generically factory made goods. 

And we can’t compete. 

Go ahead. Amble over to Etsy. Try a search for your favorite style of hat. Odds are that after you wade through a sea of beanies, you’re going to find hats in the range of $50-60. That’s about what you’d pay for one at Gap. We can’t make hats for $50. The felt we use costs more than that. A well-priced handmade handmade cloche should START at about $150. That’s if you use the lower quality wool felt. If it’s made from a high quality fur-felt, the price ought to be about $250. 

And that’s a steal. It takes hours and hours and hours to make these things. We can’t begin to charge for our actual time, it would place the price point nearing $1000. And in fact, if you go to buy a handmade hat in the real world, you may very well pay $1000 for it. But you won’t, will you? You’ll go to Gap and pick up a mediocre but nonetheless stylish floppy brimmed fedora for $52.

How do we convince our customers that you do get what you pay for when your $200 hat is sitting next to an extremely similar but manufactured hat for $52? And since it’s Etsy, the average customer is going to think that the $52 hat IS handmade. Because Etsy is the “handmade marketplace.”

Etsy has lost its way. Trolling through items listed, it looks more and more like Walmart every day. It used to be a community– you’d spend hours on the forums talking about issues you had with the place or just chatting about what you were doing that evening. The sellers used to know each other. We got to be friends on those forums. But the forums, as they existed are gone too. And sellers are pouring in which should be a good thing, except more often than not these days those sellers are actually manufacturers. They aren’t desperate to quit their day-jobs to make their art. They are the day jobs.

It’s so huge these days it’s hardly an entity at all. It feels like eBay or Amazon. Just one big mass of sellers that customers hardly remember. And the milliners feel left out in the cold on a massive scale.

We want something new. 

We have been talking in our team forums about what we are doing about this. Many of us are trying to move into consignment sales in shops. That’s a risky venture as the percentage you gain is so generally skewed. When we sell directly, we’re not getting a wage that fits the work we do. When you get only a percentage of the sale, you end up almost paying for your own sales. Nor can you be sure that your hats are being taken care of properly. There are many tales of damage. Consignment is scary. 

Some have been trying to sell to their communities. That’s not an option for many of us. Our communities are too small. That’s why we went to Etsy in the first place. Oh how we wish Etsy would just return to their roots. Throw all of this other nonsense in the trash and really become The handmade marketplace that it was.

That’s not going to happen though.

We’re looking for a venue online that doesn’t yet exist. We want a new “Etsy”, a handmade marketplace that’s truly for the handmade. One that is friendly to milliners, addressing our needs for categories and understands our process enough to help us be found in the slippery business of SEO. 

Or maybe even a website that is just hats. One massive hat store that gets the attention of the ladies who are going to the races, the men who want to look dashing, the women who are off to the weddings. Wouldn’t that be magical? Oh what a wonderful place! A hat store of global proportions!

For years, when people have asked me about joining Etsy I have told people that it is a great place to house a shop. You don’t have to set up the e-commerce site. You don’t have to worry about how you’re going to take payments. But you have to work that shop like crazy. 

Now, I’m not certain it is a good house. At least it doesn’t seem as if it’s a good place for hats. I wish someone out there would be inspired to find a way to help us. We’ve got over 500 members in our team and there are hundreds more on Etsy. All left out in the rain. 

Handmade hats aren’t so good in the rain.

Thank you to Mr X Stitch, Click Here

 
British hat designer Stephen Jones to speak at MOCAD byMauricio Gutierrez

The name Stephen Jones may not ring a bell, but his creations will. Musicians, models and fashion icons from Madonna to Princess Diana have worn his hats.

Jones will be in Detroit on Oct. 16 at the Museum of Contemporary Art to talk about his craft at the first "Icons + Lunch" event. One of his hats will be auctioned.

While his claim to fame are the over-the-top hats, he also designs hats that are meant to be worn everyday. Beanies, fur-trimmed hoodies and baseball caps are part of his Fall-Winter 14 collection.

For him, hats can make you happy, or at least make you feel better. Jones feels that "when home is not so good or things are falling apart, how you dress is something you can control. Clothing can put a spring in your step. A hat is the most powerful of all things."

Jones did not always want to be a milliner. In fact, he remembers being an astronaut when he was a boy.

"I was a late developer, I went to St. Martins (College) and I was doing women's fashion and my tailoring tutor told me 'If you don't get extra help you will fail.' " That stern warning changed his life, and he became an intern at a couture house which had a millinery room.

But as Jones recalls it was "not the work, but the mindset. They had a fun time." It was love at first sight, and he found a mentor who gave him the most valuable lesson: "A hat would never be made in any particular way, you have to find your own way."

She taught him the rules of millinery, but also gave him permission to break them.

His hats are more architectural pieces than accessories, and he mentions architecture as his source of inspiration. "Architects work against gravity, turning something quite heavy and making it light and airy."

While he is Detroit he is looking forward to driving around the city and looking at the buildings being repaired, visit Cranbrook and in particular the Saarinen house. But what he looks forward to the most is to meet Detroiters, because even a simple conversation may inspire him.

Jones has always liked Motown style, and he remembers being about 10 years old, "learning the Temptations moves. And hating the Beatles." And he laments that of all the celebrities he has designed hats for, he has never done one for Diana Ross.

Sunday hats are a common sight around Metro Detoit. But colder weather is coming and that is the perfect time to start wearing hats.

"Women can wear hats every day," Jones says and he recommends a simple barret or a fedora, something in smaller scale, for everyday wear. "What about a Monday morning hat." he proposed.

He explains that women around the world wore hats during the 1950s. "My grandmother thought that if you were out without (a hat) you were mad," he recalls.

Not since Jacqueline Kennedy has a hat been a First Lady trademark. Yet for all that Michele Obama seems to enjoy fashion she never wears a hat. If he were to design a hat for Obama, it probably would be a small pale blue hat, "maybe on the back of the head, maybe like the one Kennedy wore."

Jones may have not become an astronaut, but his style and vision has changed the way we think about hats, even as we aren't aware of his name. Just like his mentor, he has given us permission to think of hats as objects of self-expression that break the boundaries of what is traditionally considered a hat.

Thank you to Detroit Free Press for this article, click here.

 
Kim Fletcher Millinery Art Spring Showing 2014

Click Here for all the images from the Kim Fletcher Millinery Art Showing

 
Stephen Jones: ‘Every youth movement has its drugs – ours was fashion’ by C Piers

Stephen Jones: ‘Every youth movement has its drugs – ours was fashion’

The milliner, 57, on being gay in the 80s, making hats for horses, and how everything he experiences gets used in a hat

Every single thing I do gets logged in my brain and eventually gets used in a hat. Whether it’s a conversation, the colour of the sky or the smell in the air. I grew up in the Wirral peninsula. It was our house, then the road, then the sea. All I remember is the sunset and the sky and the water – it still inspires me.

Boarding school helped shape my career. Aged 10 I went off to [board at] Liverpool. It made me very bloody-minded and made me think that if you want to have something you have to go out and get it yourself. But it also taught me reliance on one’s friends and how to work with a group of people.

Children are intrigued by watching people put things on their head. It’s a primary act of being. When I made hats for the Princess of Wales, I would go to St James’s Palace and her two young sons would be fascinated by what was going on.

Every youth movement has its drugs – ours was fashion. After art school I lived in a squat on Warren Street in London with 20 people. We were always stealing each other’s clothes. Boy George lived there for a while, Grayson Perry was always over. In a funny way it was like boarding school.

I feel very privileged to be alive. I never thought I’d turn 30, let alone 40. I grew up as a gay man in the 1980s in the advent of Aids and HIV. We didn’t really know what it was and suddenly people were dying. So many friends in London and New York passed away.

L’Wren Scott continues to be an inspiration for me every day. I often think: “What would L’Wren think of this?” and remember times we had together and have a chuckle. We met when she was a model in Paris. When she started going out with Mick Jagger, I began to make his hats.

I didn’t come out to my parents until I was 40. My mum went a bit crazy, but then she met my husband Craig [Jones’s partner of 25 years] and realised he was a new son-in-law and fresh meat. So she started asking him to put up shelves.

I’m still friends with John Galliano. We don’t see each other much, but we text. It’s been a very long journey for him and I don’t think he’s over it yet. He hit rock bottom, so he now has a chance to get better.

A quick death is great, but then you may not say the things you want. Just before my father died he hadn’t spoken for a month. I had a one-sided heart-to-heart with him and apologised for not going into the family business. Out of nowhere he said: “We never imagined you would.” There I had been thinking he was this uncool tyrant when he was on my side all along.

I’ve made hats for horses, hats for dogs. The strangest hat I ever made had dry ice in it, which is incredibly dangerous, as it can burn you like acid.

Hats can transport you to another place. So that girl at Royal Ascot who’s wearing a giant hat, a fuchsia dress that’s too tight, heels that she can’t walk in – maybe that’s the one day she really goes bananas. We need more of that in the world. 

Stephen Jones is stocked at Dover Street Market (doverstreetmarket.com)

Thank you to The Guardian, Click Here.

 
Millinery Shapes and Style for 2014

More than ever you will be seeing Veiling, including well constructed pieces around the eyes. Go for a stiffened look and not a whimsical piece of lace. Veiling over the eyes has been sported over the past couple of years, but now we are looking for stronger stiffened pieces.

Different Shapes such as the Mohawk that has been sported in the past couple of year, but taking a contemporary look at your headwear rather than traditional shapes can make a stand out statement. Make sure your Millinery has been made by a Master Milliner as these pieces can look very costume or home made if not made correctly with statistics that will balance correctly.

Above Stephen Jones Millinery for Louis Vuitton

Above Mohawk, Kim Fletcher Millinery Art 2014

Lace is going to be everywhere this year, as so many Milliners have been taught this technique over the past year. It will be important to keep your lace very individual to your outfit or subtle. Too much lace this season will be an overload. Say goodbye to lace ears and any ears of for this season it is outdated for 2014.

Goodbye to Lace ears and ALL EARS.

Art is the main focus for 2014 when you look at D & G painted dresses and the look of oil painting is going to be huge. I sported a POP Art Inspired Hat at Darwin Cup and has has immense positive feedback. Keep pop art cool and fun. If you wear an outstanding hat make sure that the outfit is toned down to keep the hat the focus.

Head for ART,  Pop Art, Impressionist, Surrealist, as long as it is painted or has the feeling of Visual Art inspired, it will be a hit.

Goodbuy Gatsby, Gatsby was the trend that really had to be done before it was a trend. So the cloches and jewelled headwear are to stored for party looks and night club attire.

 

There is huge controversy in Millinery at the moment simply because there are so many calling themselves Milliners. I think go with what you know. I purchase hats that I know will be investment pieces, but I do expect to pay for them. A good hat that will last the distance of time will set you back around $800 but you will be wearing it time after time. I add up how many times I wear a piece and divide it. So thus the wear if I wear it 5 or 6 times comes down to $120, $150 per wear. The cheaper pieces are not always so well constructed and you expect to pay from $200 - $300 per hat. Sometimes they are not going to last the distance, but for a fashion item, you may only be able to wear them a couple of times and are usually out by the next season.

 

 

 

 
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